PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As COVID-19 continues spiking nationally and in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia School District affirmed its plans Thursday to delay bringing students and staff back into the classroom.
"This decision to put our transition to hybrid learning on hold was made after consideration with public health experts across the city and the Commonwealth," Superintendent Dr. William Hite said.
District officials acknowledged the warning of a looming "catastrophic situation" from one of the foremost most medical authorities, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"It was primarily the case counts and the science associated with that, that we chose them to remain virtual," Hite said.
In a statement CHOP's Policy Lab officials attributed some of the surge in cases to Halloween gatherings, writing in part, "Unfortunately, overall infection rates in children are outpacing those of adults in many areas of the country"
The Keystone State again surpassed 5,000 daily new cases for the first time since the pandemic began on Thursday.
"Some people think it' a joke, but it's not a joke to me," said West Philadelphia resident Beverly Sawyer Perry.
"We cannot be tired of hearing about COVID, because it's real," said Sallieu Jalloh, of Southwest Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced 349 new cases, bringing the citywide total to 50,885. There were no new deaths reported.
"COVID-19 does not discriminate and no one is invincible. No one is invincible when it comes to the potential negative effects of this virus," said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.
COVID Restrictions Being Considered
"More important than that, daily case rates are rising quickly," said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley on Tuesday. "We are entering the most dangerous phase of this pandemic, and everyone needs to take this seriously: stay away from others, and wear a mask."
During a news conference, Farley talked about the possibility of COVID-related restrictions.
"I would say that the full range of options is something we're considering. These are tough decisions," said Farley.
The number of hospital cases has more than doubled in the last two weeks.
Doctors at Temple University and across the city are preparing.
"What I don't know is are we in the worst of it, is the worst coming in the next week or two, or are we just at the beginning of what could really be bad?" said Dr. Tony Reed of Temple University Hospital.
Health officials anticipate a further increase in cases, especially with the holidays approaching, which is why they are looking at implementing new restrictions.
"As the holidays come up, it's gonna be really tempting to go inside and have gatherings where it's warmer with larger groups of people, but you should refrain from doing that," said La Toya Nesbit, an ICU nurse at Einstein Medical Center.
"Wear a mask, keep social distancing, I know the holidays are coming and we want to get together with family. We need to do it in a wise way," said Dr. Reed.
"We really want to change the trajectory of this epidemic, but we don't want to be so heavy-handed that we unnecessarily restrict things that may be important for people," said Farley.
Officials said they are also having active discussions about possible restrictions that could impact restaurants.
"Hearing about spread in restaurants from our contact tracing interviews, for example, a group of people are going to restaurants for birthday parties," said Farley.
Restaurant owners in Philadelphia said they are bracing for a worst-case scenario, with more restrictions possibly coming to their already hurting business.
During lunchtime Wednesday at Morea, a restaurant in Center City that opened about two weeks ago, tables were empty. The owner said he is dreading more limitations, but he's planning ahead on how to pivot if dining capacity is reduced.
"We have to be a little more creative, we have to do a lot more delivery and pickup," said Scott Hockfield, the owner of Morea.
"Looks like mask use might actually be going down, unfortunately, I'd rather that not be the case but it doesn't seem to be rising for sure," said Farley.
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